Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility


Why Your Partner Should Max Out Their Parental Leave

Team Liftery
April 2, 2024

As you gear up for your parenthood journey, let’s talk about parental leave — not for yourself but for your partner. Some non-birthing parents are hesitant to take it, perhaps because of social norms or a workplace vibe that makes them feel it’s not a safe career move. And some moms may have ample help and so are fine with their partners taking only a few days off. Even so, there are solid (research-backed!) reasons why your partner should max out their parental leave. Let’s explore.

Why Paternity Leave Matters

As we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s chat about why paternity leave** is so important. Beyond helping with middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes, having your partner by your side during those early days can set you up for more equal parenting over time. When non-birthing parents are involved from day one, it eases the load for moms and helps foster a more equal partnership at home — which means a stronger relationship with less resentment.

Research shows that dads who take paternity leave are more involved in caregiving long-term. This means more support for you and a stronger bond for the whole family.  New moms with partners who are actively helping with the baby have a better chance of avoiding postpartum depression. And studies also show that fathers’ involvement in childcare from the outset brings stronger bonding and positive outcomes for children, including better cognitive development and emotional stability. 

There are financial reasons too. Paternity leave increases mothers’ wages in the short term and helps to increase total household financial well-being in the long term. Research conducted on roughly 9,000 families measured parental pay one year prior to childbirth and again when children were on average four years old. Surprisingly, it found that mothers’ incomes rose about 7 percent for each month that a father spent at home on paternity leave. 

In the Workplace

Taking full advantage of any paternity leave benefits also sets a powerful example within organizations. It normalizes that the benefit is for all parents and signals to colleagues and employers that caregiving responsibilities are not just for women. And if parental leave is simply something that everyone does when they become parents, then there won’t be negative repercussions when women take it. 

We should set expectations in an organization that [partners taking parental leave] is normal,” said Erica Lockheimer, former VP Engineering at LinkedIn. “This is called creating a human population and creating families. This is part of life. And so embracing that in our policies is also really important.” This shift in mindset can help combat the stigma surrounding mothers in the workplace and the motherhood penalty, and encourage more equitable policies and practices in the long run.

Important Yet Illusive

That said, not everyone can take advantage of parental leave. In the United States, The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but not everyone qualifies. You have to have been with your employer for at least 12 months beforehand. And let’s be real – unpaid leave isn’t always feasible. 32% of partners reported getting paid parental leave in 2023 through their state of residence or their employers. In fact, more than 70% of American fathers return to work full time less than two weeks after the birth of their child.

Only slightly better than the US, India offers 15 days of paid paternity leave only to government employees. Contrast this with Sweden, touting a whopping 480 days of paid leave per child with 90 days reserved just for each parent. Partners use 30% of all available days, and more than 80% of fathers are taking it. In fact, foregoing paternity leave in Sweden has actually become somewhat taboo. And not surprisingly, more generous leave policies, especially with “use it or lose it” days reserved just for partners, often mean more dads are taking time off. And that’s a win for everyone. 

Best Practices

Most partners who take paternity leave do one of two things:

  • They take their entire leave at once to really immerse themselves in those early days and make it easy for their employers to find a replacement.
  • Or they split the leave into two chunks, taking a month or more at the beginning to help through the adjustment period and then the rest when you go back to work. This allows partners to take on significant responsibility, with the bonus of delaying paid childcare.

Occasionally partners aren’t quite sure what to do with themselves when they’re home, since so much of the physical load is on mothers who are trying to heal and feed their babies. Presence, helping wherever possible, and demonstrating support go a long way.

Business consultant Caitlin Leverenz Smith believes it’s important to establish the norm of fathers taking parental leave the same as mothers do. “It’s so simple and seems so obvious, and we’ve even felt it just in the tension between my husband and I,” she says. “He’s like, well, I can go back to work. You know, he doesn’t physically have a child attached to him trying to feed off of him… But it’s important to be intentional about taking that time so that there’s equal space held.”

The managers we’ve interviewed would agree. “I think one of the things I like as an engineering leader is having different folks on the team that take leave,” said Erica Lockheimer. “I love when the men take parental leave because sometimes in the early days of my career, I’d hear like, ‘Oh, she took time off. This project is behind.’ How is that okay? Those are not the kind of conversations we should have.” 

Deciding on Leave

Sometimes partners are hesitant to take parental leave, even if they’ll still receive paychecks. They might feel a huge responsibility to their jobs and fear being gone for an extended period. If they’re in a new role, they may think they haven’t proven themselves yet and so don’t have stable footing. They may assume the company will not be able to function without them. Or they could be afraid of being sidelined for future promotions or projects, like mothers often are. 

If your partner isn’t yet sold on the concept, look at these results from a McKinsey study of 126 fathers who took parental leave:

  • 100% were glad they took the leave and would do it again
  • 90% noticed an improvement in their relationship with their partner
  • 20% felt that a career setback was the main downside, but that the benefits outweighed that worry
  • Many fathers in the study said that paternity leave gave them perspective and helped them change the way they work, becoming more productive and better prioritizing their time
  • Fathers in the study liked that their leave-taking could inspire others to make similar choices
A Thought to Leave You With

As you embark on this incredible journey into parenthood, paternity leave isn’t just about time off – it’s about building a foundation of love, support, and equality. Advocate for equitable parental leave policies in your organization and encourage your partner to take it too. Your family will be healthier, closer, and happier. And you’ll also set yourself up for greater success both at home and in your career.

**We fully acknowledge that non-birthing partners can have any gender. For the sake of clarity, we’re using “paternity leave” in this article as a succinct, non-gendered term which is interchangeable with “parental leave for non-birthing parents” or “parental leave for partners.”


Other article like this: